Trees: A Shocking New Population Count

Emma is one of my regular guest bloggers. I feel really thrilled about the possibility to post one educating post of this great blogger on a regular base. Thank you so much, Emma, for sharing your insights with us! Please check out her amazing blog as well…

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We all love trees, right? They keep our planet alive. Our forests breathe carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere, making the air safe to breathe for humans and animals. And even if we don’t realize the impact of trees on the habitability of the biosphere, most of us enjoy trees as yard decorations. And a great many of us abandon the odd practice of stunting the growth of the branches and growing trees as hedges, and instead let the trees spread their leaves to their full, majestic height and girth. No matter how we think of trees, they are a huge part of our lives.

But just how many trees are there on the surface of the Earth?

You might think that’s an impossible number to count. How does one person, or even a team of people, go about tallying up every single tree in every single ecosystem in every single country on every single continent across the globe? It seems, at first consideration, to be an impossible task. But it has been done. Until September of last year, scientists and surveyors used remote sensing techniques and global models to map out a vague estimate of the number of trees on Earth. They estimated the number to be about 400 billion, a large number to comprehend. But they were wrong.

amazon

In September of 2015, a new team determined to find the answer. Spurred on by doubt and confusion over the most recent (and seemingly to high to be true) estimate of trees in the Amazon alone, they generated predictive regression models that linked tree density to spatially explicit remote sensing and geographic information systems layers of climate, topography, vegetation characteristics, and anthropogenic (human) use of land. This study was much more specific than previous ones, taking into account many more of the variables that determine how many trees will grow in any one area. It was the first comprehensive scan of tree density on a global level. And the new estimate of the total tree count on Earth is even more impressive than before: a whopping 3.04 trillion! That’s over seven times the previous estimate of 400 billion!

The recent study maps break down the effects of deforestation on different parts of the globe. For example, northeastern North America is estimated to be more than 80% forested, despite much of the region’s forest being harvested for timber in the 1800s. Hispaniola, on the other hand, has been greatly affected by deforestation. While the Dominican Republic, which occupies half of the island, is greatly forested, Haiti—the western half—is almost completely empty of trees. The study suggests that from 1973 to 2009, Thailand and Vietnam lost 22% and 24%, respectively, of their forest cover. More than 30% of the region’s remaining forest could be cleared by 2030. And even with all of this forest depletion, the planet Earth is now estimated to have 3.04 trillion trees.

But do not be misled. That number only sounds fantastically huge because we’re used to hearing the estimate of 400 billion (or at least used to estimating ourselves a number far smaller than reality). The recent survey estimated that over 15 billion trees are cut down each year. That means that the number of trees on Earth has actually fallen by 46% since the start of human civilization. 3.04 trillion, an incredible number that rivals the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, is actually just over half of the number of trees that once grew on the surface of our planet.

Deforestation has devastated our forests and continues to devastate them. Numbers of trees are predicted to fall even more. Can we let our trees die and our forests disappear? Can we allow, in the next 200,000 years, our population of trees to fall by another half—almost to zero?

As a fellow human being who shares this planet with countless others of her race, I urge you all to take steps toward change. Stop killing our trees. Let’s turn this around while we still can.

31 thoughts on “Trees: A Shocking New Population Count

    • I don’t quite understand their methods myself, but I can send you a link to buy the magazine issue with the article if you like 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed…I say we start taking action. Blog about it, tweet about it, organize rallies about it…write to our politicians about it…do whatever it takes to get this ball rolling and stop cutting down the forests…

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Impressive research they did and even more impressive number. But, the tree population is dwindling and that is always sad to see. I understand they need trees for supplies and goods, but they should be replenished in the process. What irritates me the most is when they cut down a beautiful forest to add housing or commercial buildings. What a waste of a beautiful piece of land. Go put your buildings on one of those abandoned shopping centers around town – there’s plenty of them, but leave the forests alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi there Perse > What a fantastic article. I will maybe use it in my English teaching classes. I wonder if you could help me out though. I have always scratched my head when it comes to the link to companies like McDonald’s who I hear contribute to the deforestation in the Amazonian rain-forest. Its hard to find clear information on this. Could you send me a few links to anything. Your help would be awesome. Once again, thanks for a brilliant post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Andy,
      I’m not an expert on deforestation myself, and I don’t know of any articles besides my source for this post. Thank you, though, for your compliment! And by the way—I’m a lover of the English language, writing a book at the moment, so it’s great to hear you teach English 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi there Perse. Thanks for getting back to me. Just a curiosity really. I’ve heard a lot about the link between big companies and deforestation but its hard to find info about it. What kind of book are you writing btw? I’d love to hear about it.

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      • Sorry I’m not much help. I found my source for this post, but that’s about all I’ve got.

        Science fiction/dystopian novel. I plan to finish it (or at least come pretty close) by the end of April 3rd. I’ve been working on it for quite a few months now and have somewhere between 100K and 200K words written (I can’t remember a more specific count, it’s been a while since I was able to sit down to it).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hiya Perse > Nice one on the novel. Keep me posted on the progress. I’m always looking for something new to read wink wink ha ha. Be sure to add yourself to GoodReads when you finish it. Any ideas on how you’re going to publish it?

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      • I’m planning to try traditional first, and I’m going to edit the heck out of it until it’s good enough to go somewhere. If no one wants it, then I’ll simply go independent. Nothing will stop me. I’ll probably be posting updates on my blog soon, so if you wanna drop by (I’m sure you can find the link somewhere in relation to my username over here) you’ll start to see those. I also have an intro post on it planned for the Momma over here. So you’ll know when it’s out, I guarantee it 🙂 Glad to know I have a reader already!

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      • Yes yes edit edit and edit. I found its good to stash it for a while after you’ve finished it and read it again. I’ll most certainly be looking out for it but I dont mind at all if you drop by and let me know as well. No harm in that on WP 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Your message is well served here. The tree density number must be hard to come up with I have about four acres of land half has mature trees. The other two acres is mostly open with 41 different types of trees and scrubs. So my carbon sink would have close to 500 trees and scrubs on an individual count. Seems outrageous but it’s a normal woods. Most are “second generation” meaning the land was cleared until about 1890’s and has regrow not since then. The biodiversity is nowhere close to the original strands of virgin forest.

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  4. Pingback: Reblog-Trees: A Shocking New Population Count | Coloring Outside the Lines

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